2011-11-12 Sat. to 2011-11-18 Fri. Trip from Atlanta to Copperhill,TN – National Forest (with Vandwellers)
I had packed the van some during the previous afternoon. I filled several 2-liter bottles with water. I didn’t fill all 14 of them because I had talked with Dick and he said that he had a new water filter. I carried 8 bottles in order to satisfy my personal needs. I planned to stop at Wal-Mart in Dunwoody for lunch (usually a prepared sub-sandwich) and some food for the trip. I got 2 bags of ice for Dick and some bananas. Since I passed Camping World on the route, I planned to visit there – to see if there was an item for camping that I needed. I gathered the directions, packed clothes and the first stop was close to the beginning of the trip. I got onto the road from the shopping about 10:00am and stopped at Camping World about 11:00am. I’ve been to a large store in Charleston, but – this store was smaller and had a compact inventory. I didn’t find anything that I had-to-have for this trip, and stored in my memory the specialty items that they carry for camping so that if I needed one of those items in the future, I will know where to shop.
It was a pretty day and a nice drive. I had been to Copperhill on a previous Vandweller trip, so I knew what to expect from both the drive and the camping location. The only other van camper on this trip was Dick – and he had moved from a dispersed camping spot to site number one. I found him easily and the first order of business was to transfer the ice that I got for him to his cooler. After arriving, I noticed that he has a new, 55-gallon barrel, fire pit. He and David Hair had made it when he had David and his son work on the van mechanical items. We talked some about how the campground was almost empty – except for us and a couple of others who were there just for the week-end. I only unpacked my folding chair – but, I had a lot of things in the van that took up room. One item was the empty ice chest that I used to transport the ice from Atlanta. I put it on the concrete picnic table. I asked Dick to help me set-up and start my new Mr. Heater that my brother gave me last year for Christmas. I was surprised at how easy it was to screw the propane canister into the heater and to get it started. I had found an old canister in a house closet and used it first. I had two old ones to use before opening my new 2-pack and using them.
On Sunday afternoon, the other campers went home. One group was from Chattanooga and they left both Dick and me some ‘trail magic’. Trail magic is the term used by Appalachain Trail hikers for ‘goodies’ left by others to the through-hikers. (Note: My older son, Joe, hiked the whole Appalachain Trail and told me about day-hikers bring too much food for the week-end and giving their leftovers to the through-hikers.) We were gifted a small pile of wood for the fire and some graham crackers, soup and several packs of crackers. Dick and I shared the crackers during supper and Dick didn’t like graham crackers, so in the next couple of days, I managed to devour them. During my stay, some hunters and fishermen would drive by the campsite and stop and talk with Dick. They discussed the fish biting or not-biting, the bear in the area, and, well – ‘stuff’. You know – ‘stuff’. Some hikers would park near the trailhead and hike for a few hours, return to their cars and leave. Most of the time of my visit, the weather was sweatshirt-temperature. However, on Thursday night, a real cold spell came in and I had to turn on the Mr. Heater for a while to stay warm. Also, most of the time of my visit, we had clouds, and NO rain. However, one day – Wednesday, it was rainy and I stayed inside the van most of the day reading a book.
I used my new, 12-volt heated blanket several nights. It plugged into the house batteries and I learned that it wasn’t HOT like a 120-volt home electric blanket. It didn’t have any Hi-Medium-Low. There is either on – or – off. It is a gentle, slight warmth that is enough to help get my feet from being frozen, but not so much so that I am HOT. On my first night, Saturday, I put the heated blanket on top of the bed sheet and then I spread several cotton blankets on top of it – thinking that the heat would keep me warm, but that the other blankets would keep the heat close. Well, as I turned over in the bed because of too much pressure being on one side, the blankets all slid off of the side. When I talked with David Hair on my previous trip about camping in cold weather, he told me to use a sleeping bag. I had a nice, down-filled, sleeping bag that I had used when camping with the Boy Scouts in the top of a closet at my house. So – I packed it for this trip to see if, indeed, the bag was better than blankets. On the second night, I put the 12-volt blanket on top of the sleeping bag. (Note: the 12-volt blanket instructions indicated to NOT sleep on top of the blanket.) So, in the middle of the night, I had to turn-off the 12-volt blanket because I was too hot (a rare occurrence).
Dick and I shared meals. I learned how to set-up my new one-burner propane stove and I pulled out a cooking pot. On a couple of nights, we had cream-of-celery soup with French bread on the side. We used most of the 1/2 gallon of milk that I brought that I wasn’t able to leave for a long time in my home refrigerator. We ate some canned holiday-style popcorn that Dick had bought when he passed by it in a store aisle. I particularly enjoyed the caramel coated variety.
On Wednesday, Dick and I decided to ‘go-to-town’ O-o-h W-e-e. It was a cloudy day of light-jacket weather. I put some items from my van front seat onto the top of the picnic table and Dick rode with me. The drive from tne National Forest camping area to the surburb of Copperhill is only a mile-and-a-half, but travelling on gravel roads with ruts takes time because you have to drive slowly. We decided to eat at the burger restaurant near the railroad tracks just outside of the main town area. I had seen an advertisement that they had hamburgers for $.79. When we got out of the van and went to the ‘order-window’ on the porch, the woman inside said that the hamburgers were the ‘krystal-type’. So, it was about 10:30am and I saw another sign indicating that they cooked breakfast – and, I decided to get a biscuit with gravy and eggs. Dick saw the sign also and ordered the same thing. We walked a few feet from the porch window to the restaurant inside. At first, I noticed a big map of the area tacked to the wall. We were the only ones dining and I walked over to look at it. There is a LOT of land in the area that is government owned. Also, I think that the copper that used to be mined in the area isn’t as plentiful and couldn’t find any indications that the economy was greatly helped by the neary mine. I was also amazed at the view of the river separating Georgia from Tennesee. It was really pretty looking down at it flowing past. Dick and I found a table near the road-side window and I noted that just outside of the restaurant end was an outdoor porch for dining in better weather. Our food was delivered to an inside window and we picked it up and returned to the table. It was quick, and good-and-hot. I left full and ready to conquer the world again.
From the restaurant parking lot, about 300 feet away was the Dollar store and our next stop. Dick needed paper towels and a couple of other items. I browsed around and didn’t find anything that I had to have. On the way out, Dick found some twisty-corn-munchies (for a $1, of course) and got them. After a shared can of soup for supper one night, he and I got into the bag and it was quickly eaten. They were salty, and crispy, and good. I don’t allow myself to buy things like that, but – when he offered to share them, I didn’t hesitate.
Our next stop was the grocery store, an IGA in the middle of town at the stoplight. We had eaten a can of Chicken and Dumplings and I just looked to see if they had that brand. They did not, but they did have Chicken and Dumplings – but, I decided to get another can after returning to Atlanta. Dick said that he felt deprived being in the forest without ice cream. There was a chest-type freezer full of ice cream sandwiches and things near the cash register. I was too tempted and followed Dick’s lead of getting one out of the freezer. Before I could check-out, Dick was at the register and told the cashier that he was paying for 2 of them. We didn’t bother putting them in a bag – as soon as we were outside of the door, we unwrapped them and were eating them. Besides, they wouldn’t last long out of the freezer – would they? It was a misty light rain. When we first arrived at the grocery store, the miner’s store across the road was closed. When we left the grocery store, I noticed that the miner’s store was open. Dick and I put the groceries into the van and walked across the street to browse in the miner’s store. I thought that it would have hardware like gold-panning pans, picks, etc. Instead, it had a display for gold-panning in the window, but inside was an antique store. We looked around and Dick talked with the owner about an Aderondack bed-frame that he had on display. Dick used to make wood furniture and was amazed of the sale price. He’s from New York and I guess the price was a southern, mountain-town price. Actually, most of the town of Copperhill and McCaysville is dedicated to the tourists who come on the train from Blue Ridge. I’ve taken the train ride and at the turnaround, tourists eat lunch and shop for items not commonly found in places like Atlanta. It’s interesting looking around there.
Our next stop was a thrift store. I don’t know if Dick was looking for anything in particular, but I was just browsing. I found a hardback book, by Peter Linch for $1 and was happy to have another book to read if the weather continued to be ‘indoor-type’ for longer. I stayed away from the Christmas display as I am not one to decorate much – besides, I already have decorations, but since my kids are grown, I rarely bother to get them out of their boxes.
Next, I went to the convenience store on the main road and at the turn where we drive to the campground. Previously, Wolf had bought some Mike’s hard lemonade there and I decided that I wanted something like that to help warm me up at night when the weather turned colder. At home, during the winter, I often drink a glass of red wine and get warmer because it causes my blood to circulate better. After this stop, we drove away from Copperhill toward Ducktown – just to see what was there. We spotted a Food Lion and other stores. We rode downtown to see the Christmas lights and what the one-block of main stores looked like. They were the older-type buildings with parking behind the stores. We rode back to the campground and stopped at a propane distributor. We went into the office and asked if they sold propane filters and they said ‘no’. The book for the Mr. Heater noted that if you use a 20-pound propane tank, you need to use a filter.
So, we returned to the campground about 3:00pm. The day was uneventful in some ways, but – very eventful if you were getting stir-crazy and needed to just ‘go-somewhere’. By driving my van, I had recharged the batteries and could use the 12-volt blanket a couple of more nights. I have a ‘house AM/FM radio’ and listen to it a lot at night. I’ve tried several antennas with it – and even used a straightened white-coathanger. It worked OK in that I was able to listen to one station. I had bought and installed before this trip, an antenna from Wal-Mart. The new antenna didn’t pick up any stations. I took it out and adjusted the coathanger by opening it to be completely straight and pointing up above the van in between the rubber of the middle double doors. It still picked up the one station – so it really wasn’t an improvement of the store-bought antenna. I tried doubling the coathanger and sticking two ends into the slot. Reception wasn’t much better. I concluded that Copperhill is so far away from radio’s that there isn’t much to listen to in the area.
Dick had put a tarp over the picnic table on Tuesday. We enjoyed sitting under it and left our chairs out at night. On Thursday, Dick received a text message from David that a storm was headed our way from Dalton. We put chairs up and tried to tie things down. I retreated to my van and continued to read my book. I fell asleep in the mid-afternoon and thought that the nap may impact my night rest – but, it didn’t. Anyway, sometime during the storm, a wind gust got under the tarp and with the rain and heaviness of the weight – broke a tie-down line and caused the tarp to fall. After the storm, Dick and I push the water from the tarp on the ground and he wrapped the tarp over the picnic-table top so that the stoves, etc. would be protected. He had packed up chairs and I had put mine back in my van (inside the passenger side rear door.) I had left the cardboard box for the Mr. Heater on the table and it got blown around. After Dick put the tarp back up, I left my fold-up chair in the van and sat on the picnic table bench on top of the cardboard.
On Thursday, after the storm, the weather turned cold. The forecast was to go down to 24 degrees Farenheit. I came on this trip to learn how to cold-weather camp and this would be a real test of my preparation. In the end, I did pretty good during the night. As the weather turned cold, I turned on the Mr. Heater and listened to the radio and read more of my book. I was comfortable and enjoying the experience. The next morning was a little different. I made sure to open both the driver and passenger windows a little. They are the only windows that will open in the van. I kept the Mr. Heater on when I was awake and turned it off during the night. I was comfortable under the 12-volt heated blanket and sleeping bag. During the night, I had an old army wool blanket folded many times on my feet and they were warm. In the morning, the van was cold, but I had the Mr. Heater near the bed and turned it on for about 45 minutes. It warmed up the inside and I was able to dress and be reasonably comfortable. When I got out of the van in the morning, Dick was in his chair and warming up to a fire that he had started. I looked at my battery bank and the digital display told me that my power remaining was 11.7. I was below 1/4 tank on van gas and knew that I would have to drive somewhere in order to get some gas and charge the batteries. So, I told Dick that I planned to return to Atlanta in the afternoon. As I hung around the fire, I was warm and moved around some. However, if I sat down very long, my feet got cold and I was uncomfortable. I knew that David Hair planned to come on Saturday and I wanted to see him – but, I didn’t want to discharge the batteries further and I needed van gas. I left about 2pm and returned to Atlanta about 6pm. Of course, I stopped for gas on the way and in addition, I stopped at a fast-food restaurant. I had a good trip and was glad to be home. I unpacked some items after returning home and left others to unpack in the morning. My plans were to wash clothes and go visit my younger brother in Savannah.
2011-11-23 Wed. to 2011-11-28 Mon. – Trip from Atlanta to Savannah to visit my younger brother and his family. My older brother and Dad visited my younger brother also.
My younger brother, his wife, son (who is a Junior at GaT), and daughter (who is a Senior at Savannah Arts) hosted the rest of my immediate family for Thanksgiving. I purchased and packed in an ice chest a Honey Baked Ham for the trip. We all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving feast and time with the family for the long week-end. The weather there was short-sleeve warm and there is always an ocean breeze. My brothers and Dad went fishing on a couple of occasions and returned with about 12 fish. They cleaned and dressed them and my older brother returned to Bamberg with several meals. In addition to the fish, my brothers bought some oysters from a nearby seafood distributor and they heated them in an outdoor gas cooker. They were good and the weather was exceptionally warm. Also, my brother has a couple of crab traps and caught about 18 crabs. They cook both the crab and the oysters in different batches using the outdoor gas cooker. Several guests visited and everyone filled to the gills with seafood while there.
One night, there was a great sunset. I took several pictures of it over the marsh. In the summer, whenever there are pretty sunsets, you get mosquito-eaten when taking pictures. However, since it is cooler, the mosquitoes have retreated and it was great standing near the marsh.
2011-11-28 Mon. to 2011-12-05 Mon. – Trip from Savannah to Bamberg.
My older brother stays with our Dad. Well … , he has a Class A Motorhome that is parked behind my Dad’s house. He likes ‘full-timing’ and lives in it. Dad is 91 and has macular degeneration and shouldn’t live alone. So, my brother is Dad’s caretaker. I visit when I can and before I retired (about a year ago), I used Family Medical Leave (leave without pay) to visit and help with Dad. Sometimes, my brother would leave in the motorhome and ‘get-away’. Lately, he has a project restoring a 1941 Jeep and has remained ‘in-town’ while I visited. He gave me a ride for short distances since he is working on getting a title and tag. Riding in it was quite an experience – it is loud (I think that he said he intends on working on the muffler some more) and it is bumpy. It doesn’t have a top so the scenery is viewed by looking all around and above.
While at Dad’s, I watch tv and surf the internet. I visit my brother and we went out to eat in a restaurant with friends. The time there is very relaxed and I try to help with things that are needed. On this trip, the town Christmas parade was held on Saturday morning and we went to see it. It was a small town parade and didn’t have a large entry of floats as a big city would have.
Back Home – in Atlanta. It’s been a year since I retired. I’ve gotten used to ‘doing what I want to – when I want to’. It’s very selfish. When I first retired, I shopped for groceries in the middle of the week and in the early morning. I couldn’t believe how empty the store was (compared to week-end shopping that I was used to). Also, I didn’t have any problem with traffic because it was mid-day. (In Atlanta, traffic is always a consideration when going somewhere.)
Today, I went grocery shopping. The weather is blustery – grey, winter cloudy and windy. It has rained off-and-on for a couple of days. The grocery store that I went to is being renovated. The construction workers are adding a new front entrance and expanding the store inside on the left-side. In addition, they are building a pharmacy and moving the up-right freezer aisles. It was a ‘mess’ – but, I was amazed at how many people were shopping. It wasn’t until I checked-out and got a senior-citizen discount that I realized that most of the shoppers were like me, senior citizens. That store is near a retirement community – so, I guess the expansion is needed; i.e., there are lots of people who shop there. U-m-m not the same scene as what I had a year ago. Still, it’s nice to shop in the middle of the day.
Of course, Christmas selling is in full-swing. The store has more floor space now because of the addition and they’re filling it up with the normal food items plus the new Christmas ones. I was able to find everything that I needed on my list. The store had many employees moving items from shelves to other areas and then dismantling the shelves to be moved. There were a lot of people working – but, they were spread all over the store. Where workers needed extension cords across the aisles, there were rubber rugs over them so that the car could pass wihout going around. There were many areas to go around – but, they had put up big signs so that you would know which direction to go. I needed toilet paper and it was in the new section. There were hanging ceiling signs visible from the far aisles in the middle indicating that paper products were beyond where the store wall used to stand.
One thing that I haven’t changed is that I usually wash clothes on Saturday morning. I guess it is a tradition that I started when I worked and the tradition has continued. I’ve recorded many Oprah, Dr. Phil, and The Doctors tv shows. My recording machine won’t record anymore – probably because it is full. I try to watch and delete recordings when I have time. Also, I’ve read several books and have plans to read more. I’ve been to a couple of library book sales and have a stack waiting for me. I listen to talk radio and become more insecure every day. My dollar is buying less because of inflation and I worry about everything. I think that women were wired to worry about things and that I’m no exception.
Today, the winter weather has arrived. We previously had sun and cool weather, but – today, it’s been getting colder and it’s been windy. Good day to stay inside. A couple of days ago, I blew the leaves from the carport and down the driveway. With the rain, there was a large pile still in the driveway that was wet. Today, I got out the rake and put as many leaves as I could into a trash can. Also, I cleaned out tree leaves and hickory nut shells from the gutter above the carport some. Tomorrow, the yard-waste garbage crew should pick it up. Slowly, I gather as many waste cans of tree leaves as I can and have them take it away. Eventually, I get enough scooped up and can stop. At the end of fall, after my last yard grass cutting, I left gas in the mower and intended to mow and bag the leaves – but, it got wet and cold and I’ll have to work on the yard later. (Bagging leaves works best when they’ve just fallen and are dry. I went vandwelling and missed my opportunity to mow and bag them.)
So, where does my time go? I don’t really know. I surf the internet, read email (the vandweller email is long) and watch tv and movies. Now, if I can keep the bills paid…..
Oh yeah! My younger son moved back home and started a new job last Monday. My older son is working in Amsterdam for 3 weeks. Maybe ‘the working young men’ in my life can help keep the bill-collector at bay? (Note: Another 5.5 years of house payments and another 2.5 years before collecting full-term Social Security.) Wish me good-health and lots-of-luck… Otherwise, “Life-is-good”.